"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Monday, July 14, 2014

USDA Crop Conditions Ratings

USDA reports from the field are in for this week.

It might be hard to believe but the corn crop actually improved even more. Last week it was rated at 75% Good/Excellent. This week, that category increased to 76%. The improvement came at the expense of the Fair category which dropped 1 point to 19 from 20. That one point drop in the Fair ended up in the Excellent category which increased to 22% from 21%.

Improvements came in the Missouri crop. The big three, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana remained the same at a healthy 108, 111, and 108 on the ratings table with 100 considered normal.

34% of the crop is silking compared to last year's 15% and the 5 year average of 33%. The crop is way ahead of last year but right about on schedule.

On the soybean front, the percentage of the crop rated Good/Excellent remained the same at 72%. There was a 1% increase in the crop rated Excellent at 16% compared to last week's 15%. That came out of the Good category which dropped one percentage point to 56% from last week's 57%.

The Fair category lost 1% to the Poor category. 22% of the crop is rated Fair this week, down from 23% last week. 5% of the crop is rated Very Poor, up from 4% last week.

41% of the crop is now blooming, way ahead of last year's 24% and compared to the 5 year average of 37%. That earlier bloom period is important as it puts the crop a bit ahead of schedule meaning the current benign weather will keep it supported ahead of any potential heat/dryness issues that might arise in August.

There is a bit of chatter that this week's Polar Vortex (yes, you are reading that correctly) which is expected to hit the Mid-West later this week bringing unseasonably cool temperatures with it, might slow the crop down somewhat due to the lower overnight temps but I am not so sure about that. It takes soil a long time to cool off and a few days of cooler weather, along with sunshine I might add, is not going to impact soil temps all that much in my opinion. Mild day times temps will continue to eliminate any heat stress issues for these plants.

As far as the big three go, the Iowa bean crop improved to 106, the Illinois crop improved to 108 and the Indiana crop remained unchanged at 105.

Beans popped higher today on thoughts that possible hot/dry weather in August could crimp yields but that remains a ways off and thus far I have not seen any forecasts calling for that. What likely happened is that some shorts decided to book some profits after the market spiked up off its worst levels on Friday after the initial reaction to the bearish Supply and Demand report had run its course.

Corn and wheat got bumped higher as well on ideas that the sharp fall in prices would generate some commercial buying interest.

Switching gears here I am noticing that the gold miners ( HUI) is closing very near its low on the day. Ditto for the GDXJ which is down nearly 4.8% as I type up these comments.

The long bond is a tad weaker today. Expectations are that Yellen, speaking on the behalf of the Fed and not herself, will sound a bit more hawkish view on interest rates. Some of this was also a factor in the gold price drop today.

Some longs got nervous looking at the sharp spike in the number of NET LONGs among the hedge fund category. That number leapt from 51,280 the week of June 10 to last week's reading of 136,929. That is a significant increase in a mere three week period as it almost tripled.

We'll have to see whether or not gold can remain with a "13" handle in front of it. Much will depend on Yellen's testimony and obviously how the market reacts to that or how it interprets her comments.

I think people are coming around to the consensus that interest rate hikes are inevitable. No one seems to have the time nailed down however. That is what will be the focus.

Today's comments

One just knew they were coming. By "they" I mean the usual hysterical screams about "massive amounts of paper gold dumped" in mere seconds, etc. Funny how none of these perennial hype-sters ( my word) said a single word about the massive surge in price back on June 19th of this year. That was the day that gold managed to soar $50 at one point before settling up some $47 on the session. Yep - "SOMEONE JUST SWALLOWED millions of ounces" is what the headline could have stated that day but you see, gold must always rise so when it gets slammed lower, it must by necessity be the work of nefarious forces. Let it accelerate higher in a mad short squeeze and that is just dandy as that is what "it should be doing if the world was fair". Sigh... it will never end.

Again, for the umpteenth time, welcome to the world of futures trading where wild swings in price are the new norm. Whether it is the bean market, the cattle market, the hog market, the coffee market ( just pick your market) enormous spikes in price, enormous collapses in price, are becoming more and more frequent. Computerized buying and selling programs have essentially taken over from thinking human beings. There is no thinking - there is just reacting and since these automatons react to the last change in price, they all tend to be on the same side at the same time. The result is enormous air pockets both over and under the market as they all rush to the exits at once or they all crowd in to gorge themselves simultaneously.

Gold could not extend past last week's high just above the $1340 level confirming that resistance. It fell all the way to the support zone noted on the chart and has thus far held above psychological round number support at $1300. There are still enough geopolitical fears around ( and some financial fears about Portugal ) that it looks as if support will hold from dip buying coming in but bears are flexing their muscles and are growling. Failure to hold $1300 sets up at test of the $1280 region.

The recent push high above 1340 was not confirmed by the momentum based indicator shown. It failed to set a new high and actually moved lower setting up the divergence which was confirmed by today's action. Bulls will now have to take out last week's high if they are going to attract more recruits to their cause and spook some of the new shorts that came in today. Some have expressed the concern that the recent surge in fresh long positions by large specs was too much, too fast.

By the way, I have not heard any news yet whether or not India has lifted that tariff on imported gold. Do any of you readers know anything about this? Some of the bullishness in gold was related to the assumption that the recently elected government was going to repeal that tariff. If that expected repeal is delayed, some of the premium in gold that might have been due to that will be wrung out for now.

It will be interesting to see if we get any updated numbers out of GLD today. Gold tonnage made it over 800 tons last week, the first time since April that we have seen it above 800. Currently, the reported tonnage is about 2 tons larger than the start of the year with the gold price approximately $100 higher.

Copper traders are awaiting data out of China this week ( Wednesday) detailing Q2 GDP growth. The metal should take its cue from that number. Looks like there is some light profit taking in there today ahead of the release. Sharp weakness in silver is also weighing somewhat on copper today.

Crude oil continues exhibiting weakness as traders are concerned over increasing supplies from Libya. Brent is losing ground faster than WTI for now as global demand is expected to drop. Traders have noted that thus far Iraqi oil supplies do not seem to be impacted by that region's troubles.

WTI is holding above $100/barrel which is more of a psychological chart support level than anything. Technical support appears near $99 and extends to $98.75. If crude is unable to hold that region, losses could accelerate further. Maybe we consumers will see some further relief at the gas pump. I do not know about you, but I was enjoying the lower gasoline prices back at the beginning of this year.

Unleaded has rallied nearly $0.55/gallon since January but finally fell back below $3.00 at the wholesale level last week. Price has descended to the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement level of the entire rally off the November low. If it does not hold here, which it looks like it is trying to do, it should test the May low near $2.87.

I am noting that the XLE is showing some strength today ignoring the weakness in crude. That deserves some further attention.

I am not even going to bother commenting on the currencies today as they are going nowhere. No one really seems to know what to do with them at the moment as the Central Banks are all involved with speeches and the various economic data coming out from several countries seems to be conflicted. There is no clear trend.

After a sharp pop off the session lows last Friday, cattle are moving lower early in the session. Lower cash prices paid in cattle country last week have sparked concerns among traders that beef demand is going to weaken heading into the hotter months of the year.

Price found support at the 50% Fibonacci retracement level from the rally off the May low. Today's session low is just above the 38.2% retracement level from the rally using the April low. If Friday's low were to give way, cattle could lose another 200 points. This market has been in a spectacular bull for some time now and such attitudes do not subside that easily. Bulls do not yet seem ready to give up on the complex. The key will be whether or not beef demand is going to be impacted by these high prices. Restaurants and export buyers are still shell-shocked but they may fear being able to move the stuff at current prices. If they pull back from the market, it is likely that cash cattle prices will follow. The jury remains out and might continue to do so until much later in this week when cash trade finally commences.

This afternoon we will get the updated USDA conditions report for the crops. As of now traders are expecting to see continued good numbers. That report last Friday really shocked the market so any improvement in the numbers will add more bearish fuel to the fire. Right now there remains no damaging heat/dryness in any of the forecasts that I have seen. Some were buying beans today off the spike from the session lows Friday and there was some chatter about the weather turning hot and dry in August but that talk pops up every year whenever we get a move higher in the beans. It looks to me like this is just a consolidation coming off a  big move lower. End users of beans are certainly not going to be in a big hurry to book needs at the moment.

today we say goodbye to July grain futures for this year. There is never any way of knowing what might take place in those expiring contracts. I have seen them do all manner of things before they take their last breath. I was originally expecting some big commercial firms to orchestrate a squeeze but the recent USDA reports undercut any notion of that as the carryover stocks are no longer the concern they once were.

I will try to get some thing else up later on today especially after going through the conditions reports.